Witnessing and walking alongside the incredible leadership of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria as they hold the tensions of their own differences with the collective higher purpose of working towards Treaties with the Victorian Government. This is systems leadership in action and holds great promise for how we may walk this path of collaboration across local communities, in other states and as a country, especially as we look toward the Referendum in 2023.
While large-scale change is generational, we are starting to see evidence that investing in community-led change improves the wellbeing, and long-term trajectories, of children and families in their communities. And that without investing in the social infrastructure at the local level – including local governance and leadership, these changes would not happen.
Centring community leadership in the scaling of place-based change is critical. As place-based change starts to move from the margins of how Australia approaches social change to having growing investment, policy commitment to match what many communities are ready for, we have been reminded again of the importance of being explicit about the assumptions we are making and the language we are using in place-based and community led change. This year we kicked off a series of discussion starters for this purpose: starting with what we mean by place-based and community-led change.
The power of creating opportunities for systems-informed learning with diverse stakeholders together. Over the year we saw many collaborations come together – in real life (IRL), some for the first time yet building on the foundations of many years of partnership and trust building to explore their different perspectives of the system together. What has resulted across the field are groups building empathy and wrestling together about the systemic barriers they face in the work of equity and justice – leading to new and renewed commitments to collective actions and learning that connect community voice with other decision makers.
Frameworks, models and tools for investment, policies and governance all matter – and it’s practice that’s often the missing piece, yet it’s possibly what is most critical. We have been fortunate to support and also be part of many learning networks over the year – most with a common theme: what is needed to accelerate systems change in Australia? The common theme across these networks has been that some of the most challenging work of systems change comes back to how we act and show up in the uncertainty, complexity and messiness of collaborating to transform the systems we are at part of. This is what we call the practice of systems change. As we look to 2023, we are excited to share the practices we think matter here and now in Australia – weaving together nearly ten years of learning alongside masterful practitioners across the country.